What does quality look like?

When looking for a quality early learning program, it is important to consider the following:

Staff Qualifications

What are staff qualifications?

Staff qualifications refers to the level of education and training childcare providers have attained.

Why is it important?

Teachers who are prepared with specific knowledge and continue their education are likely to provide positive, rich learning experiences for the children enrolled in that program.

What to look for in a quality program:

  • Teaching staff with early childhood education qualifications such as associate’s credentials or more advanced degrees.
  • Teachers and administrators who attend trainings or courses to continue their education and stay abreast of the latest research, concepts, and best practices in their field.

Learning Environment

What characterizes a learning environment?

The learning environment focuses on interactions between children, teachers, and the materials and activities in the environment.

Why is it important?

Research suggests that interactions between children and adults are the most important factor in development and learning.

What to look for in a quality program:

  • Developmentally appropriate materials and equipment are kept clean and in good condition
  • Program policies are in place about regular sanitation practices
  • A welcome feeling among teachers and other staff members
  • Teachers that interact with children in a warm, friendly, supportive manner
  • A variety of opportunities for stimulation and learning development

Curriculum

What is a curriculum?

A curriculum serves as a guide for educators to set appropriate learning goals and plan experiences to help children reach those goals.

Why is it important?

An effective curriculum helps children reach meaningful and important educational goals so they enter school better prepared and ready to learn.

What to look for in a quality program:

  • Developmentally appropriate learning goals
  • Use of child observation & assessment to guide planning
  • Provision of sensory-rich educational experiences using multiple modalities that correlate with educational goals
  • Individualized lesson planning

Family Support and Inclusion

What characterizes family support in a program?

Family support describes the degree to which schools include families in regular meetings and program events, recognize and embrace families’ cultures and customs, and work in collaboration with families to enhance children’s educational experience.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion refers to serving children with and without special needs within the same educational setting.

Why is it important?

  • Family involvement can have the most direct, lasting impact on a child’s educational experience. A well-developed relationship between families and educators can result in cultural appreciation, positive attitudes towards education, and better outcomes for children.
  • Regular screening can help identify children with developmental delays and give them access to early intervention services. Research shows that because most of the brain’s development takes place in the early years of life, early intervention services can, in some cases, prevent delays in development for infants and toddlers and reduce the need for special education services when they enter school.

What to look for in a quality program:

  • Respect for language, culture, and values of families served
  • Incorporation of children’s backgrounds & families in the classroom
  • Caregivers and an environment that support the development of children with special needs
  • Regular completion of developmental screenings
  • Support for early intervention services

The Office of Early Learning Florida developed the “Quality Checklist for Evaluating Early Learning Programs” to help parents make informed decisions when choosing an early learning program.